An Exposition of Hebrews
by A. W. Pink
"As in all our obedience there are two principal ingredients to the true and right constitution of it, namely, the matter of the obedience itself, and the principle and fountain of it in us: whereof the one, the apostle calls the ‘deed,’ the other ‘the will’ (2 Cor. 8:11)—which latter God accepts in us, oftentimes without, always more than, the deed or matter of obedience itself even so in Christ’s obedience, which is the pattern and measure of ours, there are those two eminent parts which complete it. First, the obedience itself, and the worth and value of it in that it is His—so great a person’s. Second, the willingness, the readiness to undertake and the heartiness to perform it. The dignity of His person gave the value and merit to the obedience performed by Him. But the will, the zeal in His performance gives the acceptance, and hath besides a necessary influence into the worth of it, and the virtue and efficacy of it to sanctify us. All of which you have in Hebrews 10:7-10.
"The ‘offering of the ,body of Jesus Christ:’ there is the matter, His becoming ‘obedient unto death’ (Phil. 2:8). Then there is the readiness by which He did so, ‘Lo, I come to do thy will, O God,’ This calls for not only a distinct but a more eminent consideration, both necessarily concurring to our sanctification and salvation. Now the story of His willingness to redeem and save is of four parts. 1. His actual consent and undertaking to the work, made and given to the Father from everlasting. 2. The continuance of His will to stand to it from everlasting unto the time of His incarnation. 3. The renewal of this consent when He came into the world. 4. The steadfast continuance of that will all along in the performance, from the cradle to the cross.
"It was necessary that Christ’s consent should be then given, even from everlasting, and that as God made a promise to Him for us, so also that He should give consent unto God. Yea; and indeed it was one reason why it was necessary that our Mediator should be God, and existent from eternity, not only to the end that He might be privy to the first design and contrivement of our salvation, and know the bottom of God’s mind and heart in it, and receive all the promises of God from God for us, but also in this respect, that His own very consent should go to it from the first, even as soon as His Father should design it. And it was most meet it should be so; for the performance and all the working part of it was to be His, to be laid upon His shoulders to execute, and it was a hard task, and therefore reasonable He should both know it from the first, seeing He was extant together with His Father. It was fit that both His heart and head should be in it from the first. And you have all in one Scripture, Isaiah 9:6, where, when Christ is promised, ‘Unto us a Child is born, unto us a Son is given,’ observe under what titles He is set for unto us:
"‘Wonderful Counselor, the mighty God, the everlasting Father,’ where everlastingness, which is affixed to one, is yet common to those other two. The ‘everlasting Counselor,’ as well as ‘everlasting Father,’ for He was both Counselor and Father, in that He was the Mighty God, and all alike from everlasting. For, being God, and with His Father as a Son from everlasting, He must needs be a Counselor with Him, and so privy unto all God meant to do, especially in that very business, for the performance of which He is there saint to be given as a Son, and born as a Child, and the effecting of which is also said to be laid wholly on His shoulder. Certainly in this case, if God could hide nothing from Abraham He was to do, much less God from Christ, who was God with Him from everlasting. And as He was for this cause to be privy to it for the cognizance of the matter, so to have given His actual consent likewise thereunto; for He was to be the Father and Founder of all that was to be done in it. And in that very respect and in relation to that act of will, then passed, whereby He became a ‘Father’ of that business for us, it is He is styled the ‘everlasting Father.’ For it is in respect of that everlastingness He is God, and so ‘Father’ from everlasting, as well as God from everlasting; a ‘Counselor’ for us with God, a ‘Father’ of us in our salvation. God’s ‘Counselor,’ because His wisdom was jointly in that plot and the contrivement of it: and ‘Father’ both of us and this design, because of His will in it, and undertaking to effect it. In that His heart and will were in it as well as the Father’s He was therefore the ‘Father’ of it as well as God, and brought it to perfection" (Adopted, with slight variations, from T. Goodwin, 1600-1680).
Concerning the continuance of the Son’s willingness to the Father’s purpose, from everlasting to the time when His humanity was conceived in the Virgin’s womb, we have more than a hint in that remarkable passage found in Proverbs 8. There (by the Spirit of prophecy) we are permitted to hear Him say of the Father, "Then I was by Him, as One brought up with him." But not only so, He added, "And I was daily His delight, rejoicing always before Him; rejoicing in the habitable part (that portion where His tabernacle was to be placed) of His earth; and My delights were with the sons of men" (verses 30, 31). Thus we see how His heart was more set upon the redeeming of His people than all other works. The theophanic manifestations which He made of Himself from time to time during the O.T. period, illustrated the same fact: see Genesis 12:7, Exodus 3:2-9, Daniel 3:25 etc.
But it is the renewing of His consent when Christ came into the world which we would particularly contemplate. This may well be called the will of consecration of Himself by a vow to this great work, then solemnly made and given. This was the dedication of His holy "Temple" (John 2:19), foreshadowed of old by Solomon in the dedication of the temple which he erected unto God. This took place at the moment that His humanity was conceived by the Virgin: "When He cometh into the world, He saith... a body (a vehicle of service) hast Thou prepared Me,... Lo, I come, to do Thy will, O God." How truly marvellous and blessed that it pleased the Holy Spirit (the Divine Secretary of Heaven, and Recorder of the everlasting covenant) to write down for our learning the very words which the Son uttered to His Father at the moment when He condescended to take our nature and become incarnate! Equally wonderful is it that we are permitted to hear the very words which the Father addressed to the Son on His return to Heaven: "The Lord said to My Lord, Sit Thou at My right hand, till I make Thine enemies Thy footstool" (Ps. 110:1).
"When He cometh into the world, He saith." The Speaker is none other than the second person in the Divine Trinity. He was the One who took that "body" into everlasting union with Himself—an infinitely greater condescension than for the noblest king to marry the meanest servant-girl. The ineffably glorious Son of God was personally humbled far more and gave much more away than did that humanity when it was humiliated by being nailed to the cross. Therefore was His willingness to this tremendous stoop eminently requisite and recorded for our comfort and praise. Thus, at the very moment that the human nature was amaking, and not yet capable of giving its own consent, He who was the Brightness of the Father’s glory and the express Image of His person, announced His readiness. Inexpressibly blessed is this; may the contemplation thereof bow us in worship before Him. "Worthy is the Lamb!"
"Then said I, Lo, I come (in the volume of the book it is written of Me), to do Thy will, O God" (verse 7). There is a double reference (as is so often the case with the words of God) in the parenthetical clause. The "book" He mentioned primarily regarded the archives of God’s eternal counsels, the scroll of His decrees Secondarily, it concerned the Holy Scriptures, which are a partial transcript of that record of the Divine will which is preserved on High (Ps. 119:89). In that "book," drawn up by the Holy Spirit, it is written of Christ, the God-man Mediator for He is the Sum and Substance of all the Divine counsels (Eph. 3:11), as well as the Depository of all the Divine promises (2 Cor. 1:20). The Son was perfectly cognisant of all that was written in that book, for He had been "Counselor" with the Father. The term "volume" is the right translation of the Hebrew word "magillah" in Psalm 40:7, but the Greek word "kephalis" ought most certainly to be rendered "head"—"kephale" occurs seventy-six times in the N.T., and is always rendered "head" elsewhere.
A most wondrous and blessed revelation is here made known to us: "in the head of the book" of God’s decrees, at the beginning thereof, it is "written of" Christ! In that book is recorded the names of all God’s favored children: Luke 10:20, Hebrews 12:23; but at the head of them is Christ’s, for "in all things" He must have the "pre-eminence" (Col. 1:18). Thus, the first name on that heavenly scroll of the Divine decrees is that of the Mediator Himself! So too in the Holy Scriptures, which give us a copy, in part, the first name in the O.T. is that of Christ as Creator (Gen. 1:1 cf. John 1:1-3), and the first name in the N.T. is "Jesus Christ" (Matthew 1:1)! Yes, "in the head of the Book" it is written of Him.
The Man Christ Jesus was the first one chosen of God; chosen to be taken into everlasting union with the second person of the Trinity. Therefore does the Father say to us, "Behold My Servant, whom I uphold, Mine Elect in whom My soul delighteth" (Isa. 42:1). The Church was chosen in Christ (Eph. 1:4) and then given to Christ (Heb. 2:13). The Man Christ Jesus, taken into union with God the Son, was appointed to be the Head of the whole election of grace, and they to be members of His mystical Body (Eph. 1:22, 23; 5:30). "Christ be My first elect He said; Then chose our souls in Christ our Head."
Precious too is it to discover that the human nature of Christ also consented to the terms of the everlasting covenant, for it was something distinct from the Divine nature of God the Son, and so had a distinct will, and was directly concerned in the Great Transaction, for it was to be made the subject of all the sufferings and was to be the sacrifice offered up. The fundamental consent was the Divine Person’s, and this He gave when assuming our nature; but there was also an accessory consent of the human nature, now married into one person with the Divine. How soon then, when was it that the human nature gave its consent? No doubt many will deem this a question which it is impossible for us to answer, and that any effort so to do would be a prying into "secret things." Not so: it belongs to those things which are revealed.
Ere turning to the consideration of this marvelous detail, we must not overlook the willingness of the virgin Mary to be—in such an unprecedented manner, and in a way which (humanly speaking) seriously endangered her own moral reputation—the mother of our Lord’s sacred humanity. This is most blessedly shown us in the inspired record of Luke’s Gospel. There we learn that this amazing honor, yet sore trial, was proposed to her (not forced upon her, for God never violates human accountability!) by the angel: "Behold, thou shalt conceive in thy womb, and bring forth a Son, and shalt call His name Jesus" (1:31). Mark now her meek response: "Behold the handmaid of the Lord"—I give myself up to Him—"be it unto me according to thy word" (1:38). Not until after she had herself acquiesced, did she "conceive"—note the word "before" in Luke 2:21 and compare with Luke 1:31-38. Thus does God make His people "willing" in the day of His power (Ps. 110:3).
Returning now to the willingness of our Lord’s humanity in consenting to God’s eternal purpose: "This may safely be affirmed, that as soon as, or when first He began to put forth any acts of reason, that then His will was guided to direct its aim and intentions to God as His Father, from Himself as the Mediator. And look, as in infant’s hearts, if they had been born in innocency, there would have been sown the notion of God, whom they should first have known, whatever else they knew; and the moral law being written in their hearts, they should have directed their actions to God and His glory, through a natural instinct and tendency of spirit. Thus it was in Christ when an infant, and such holy principles guided Him to that, which was that will of God for Him, and to be performed by Him; and which was to sway and direct all His actions and thoughts, that were to be the matter of our justification, which were to be exerted more and more according to the capacity of reason as it should grow" (T. Goodwin).
There was a meetness, yea a needs-be for this. For what Christ did as a Child had a meritoriousness in it, as much as what He did when a full-grown Man. So too what He suffered, even in His very circumcision, is made influential unto the sanctification of His people through the virtue of it, equally with what He suffered on the cross. His coat was "without seam" (John 19:23): the righteousness He wrought out for His Church was a unit—beginning at Bethlehem’s manger, consummated at Calvary. It is the 22nd Psalm which furnishes a definite answer to our question, and reveals how early the Savior was dedicated to God. Hear His gracious and unique words: "Thou art He that took Me out of the womb: Thou didst make Me hope upon My mother’s breasts. I was cast upon Thee from the womb: Thou art My God from My mother’s belly" (verses 9, 10). O my brethren and sisters, prostrate your souls in adoration before this Holy One, who from the very first instant after He entered this world was unreservedly dedicated and consecrated to God, owning Him, relying wholly upon Him.
In this we may behold the fulfillment of a lovely and striking type, namely, that of the Nazarite, to which Matthew 2:23 directly, though not exclusively, refers. The "Nazarite" was one who, voluntarily, separated and devoted himself entirely unto the Lord (Num. 6:12). Samson is the outstanding illustration of this in the O.T.: the parallels between him and Christ are remarkable. 1. An angel announced to his mother her conception (Judg. 13:2-3). 2. The prophecy of the angel is recorded. 3. He was sent to a woman utterly barren, to show her conception was extraordinary. 4. Her son was to be a Nazarite, that is, "holy to the Lord" (Num. 6:8). 5. He was to be "a Nazarite unto God from the womb" (Judg. 13:5). 6. It was declared that her son should be a deliverer of Israel (verse 5). 7. Israel was then subject to the Gentiles (the Philistines), as the Jews were to the Romans when Christ was born. 8. It was in his death that he wrought his mightiest victory!
Equally striking, equally blessed, are the first words which the N.T. records as being uttered by our Savior: "know ye not that in the (affairs) of My Father it behooves to be Me" (Bagster Interlinear). The Greek is very emphatic, the last word before "Me" signifying to be completely and continuously given up to it, and is rendered "wholly" in 1 Timothy 4:15. The reader is familiar with the context of Luke 2:49. The Savior’s mother appears to have chided Him, and, in substance, He said: True you are My earthly parent, and I have been subject to you hitherto in your particular province, but do you not know that I have another Father, far higher than you, who hath commanded Me, by virtue of My office of Mediator, other manner of business? I am the Christ, devoted to the Father’s interests; His will and law is written in My heart; I am not Mine own!
Let us revert for a moment to the 40th Psalm. There we hear the Savior saying, "Mine ears hast Thou digged" (verse 6): that figurative language applied only to His humanity. The metaphor employed is taken from Exodus 21:1-6. The Hebrew servant was entitled to, "go out free" at the end of the sixth year, but an exception was allowed for: "If the servant shall plainly say, I love my master, my wife, and my children; I will not go out free: then... his master shall bore his ear through with an aul, and he shall serve him for ever" (verses 5, 6). The antitype of this is seen in Christ. As creatures, we are necessarily born "under the law," subjects of the government of God. With the Man Christ Jesus, it was otherwise. His humanity, having been taken into union with the second person in the Trinity, was altogether exempt from any servile subjection, just as a woman ceases to be a subject when married to a king. It was an act of unparalleled condescension, by His own voluntary will, that the God-man entered the place of service; and love, love to His God, to His Church, His people, was the moving-cause.
Observe another thing in the prophetic language of the Mediator in Psalm 40: "Then said I, Lo, I come: in the volume of the book it is written of Me; I delight to do Thy will, O My God: yea, Thy law is within My heart" (verses 7, 8). When the appointed hour arrived the Son volunteered to fulfill every jot and tittle which had been recorded of Him in the Book of God’s decrees—transcribed (in part) on the pages of Holy Writ. He carried all of it written in His heart. This was even more than to have His ear "bored"—to give free consent to the Father’s purpose; it was, as it would have been if infants had been born in innocency, to have God’s law (the expression of His will!) as the molding principle and controlling factor of His human nature, dwelling in the very center of His affections. Thus could He say, "My meat (My very sustenance and substance) is to do the will of Him that sent Me, and to finish His work" (John 4:34) i.e. actualize what the Father had ordained.
Our theme is exhaustless; eternity will be too short to contemplate it. Bear with the writer, dear reader, as he endeavors to follow it a step further. "But I have a baptism to be baptized with; and how am I straitened till it be accomplished!" (Luke 12:50). What words were those! The Lord Jesus knew the unspeakable bitterness of that baptism, a baptism such as no mere creature could have endured; nevertheless, He panted after it. His very heart was contracted by the delay. Never woman desired more to be delivered than did He to finish His travail, to pass over that "brook" (Ps. 110:7), that sea of wrath into which He should be immersed. Note His remarkable word to Judas: "that thou doest do quickly" (John 13:27).
Again, mark how when He first announced to His disciples His forthcoming sufferings and death (Matthew 16:21), and Peter "took Him (aside as a friend out of natural affection) and began to rebuke Him, saying, Pity thyself, Lord"—Thou who art going about doing good, ministering to the needy, allow not Thyself to suffer such indignities, such an ignominious end. And how did Christ receive this word? Did He appreciate it? No, never did He take any word so ill; never did His holy zeal flash forth more vividly than then. He turned and said unto Peter, "Get thee behind Me, Satan; thou art an offense unto Me." Never such word was spoken unto saint, before or since. The word "offense" means an occasion of stumbling; Peter’s counsel had that tendency in it—to turn Him aside from that great work upon which His heart was so fully set.
There is a remarkable word in the "Pascal Discourse" which it is impossible to explain or account for except on the ground of that holy impatience or zeal which consumed the Savior to make an end of the work the Father had assigned Him. After Judas had gone out to betray Him, the Savior redeemed the time by speaking at length to the Eleven, and in the midst of so doing He said, "But that the world may know that I love the Father; and as the Father gave Me commandment, even so I do. Arise, let us go hence" (John 14:31). He was in haste to be gone, lest the band headed by the betrayer should miss Him in the garden. Then He looked (as it were) at the hour-glass of His life, and seeing that the sands of time had not yet completely run out, He resumed and completed His address.
The closer he drew to the final conflict, the more blessedly did appear the perfectness of His consecration to God. When the moment of arrest arrived, and Peter drew his sword and attempted resistance, the Savior exclaimed, "The cup which My Father hath given Me, shall I not drink it?" (John 18:11). When conducted to the hall of judgment, He was not dragged, as an unwilling victim, but was "led as a sheep to the slaughter" (Acts 8:32). Hear His own words—spoken centuries before by the Spirit of prophecy—"The Lord God hath opened Mine ear, and I was not rebellious, neither turned away back. I gave My back to the smiters, and My cheeks to them that plucked off the hair: I hid not My face from shame and spitting" (Isa. 50:5, 6). That (excepting the cross itself) was the hardest part of what had been assigned Him, yet He rebelled not. O blessed Savior grant us more of Thy spirit.
He never showed the slightest sign of reluctancy till Gethsemane was reached, when He took (as it were) a more immediate look into the awful cup which He was to drink, and saw in it the wrath of God and His being made a "curse." Then, to exhibit the holiness of His nature, shrinking from being "made sin" (2 Cor. 5:21), to demonstrate the reality of His humanity—trembling, horrified, in anguish at what awaited Him; and to manifest His unquenchable love to us, by making known more clearly what He suffered on our behalf, He cried, "If it be possible, let this cup pass from Me." Yet instantly He was quieted: "Nevertheless, not My will be done, but Thine." Thus we are shown again His full and perfect acquiesence to the Father’s purpose, and that the one and only object before Him was the doing of the Father’s will.
Yet one more thought on this precious subject: "Lo, I come to do Thy will, O God." Weigh well the verb. It was not merely that the Son consented to passively endure whatever the Father was pleased to lay upon Him, but also that He desired to actively perform the work which had been allotted to Him. Though that work involved immeasurable humiliation, untold anguish, though it entailed not only Bethlehem’s manger but Calvary’s cross, He hesitated not. As a child, as a Man, in life and in death, He was "obedient" to His God. Our disobedience was voluntary, so the satisfaction which He made for us was voluntary. Though what He did was done out of love for us, yet chiefly in subjection to God’s will and out of love to Him. "I love the Father; and as the Father gave Me commandment, even so I do" (John 14:31)!
Let us pause long enough to make one word of application. In view of all that has been before us, of what surpassing value must be such obedience! When we remember that the One we have been contemplating is none other than the Almighty, who, "hath measured the waters in the hollow of His hand and meted heaven with a span" (Isa. 40:12), then is it not obvious that this humiliation and consecration must possess a dignity and efficacy which has more than compensated God for all the dreadful disobedience of His people! It was the Divine excellency of Christ’s person which gave infinite worth to all that He did as the God-man-Mediator; therefore is He able to "save unto the uttermost them that come unto God by Him." O Christian reader look away from self with its ten thousand failures, to Him who is "Altogether Lovely." No matter how black and foul thy sins, the precious blood of such an One cleanseth from them all. And what wholehearted devotion is due unto Him from us! O may His love truly constrain us to obey and please Him.
"Above when He said, Sacrifice and offering and burnt offerings and offering for sin Thou wouldest not, neither hast pleasure therein, which are offered by the law; Then said He, Lo, I come to do Thy will, O God. He taketh away the first, that He may establish the second" (verses 8, 9). In these words we have the apostle’s inspired comment upon the remarkable quotation given from Psalm 40. Repetition is here made that the conclusion drawn might the more plainly appear. That to which attention is now directed is to the order of statement, and what that order necessarily intimated. The first word of verse 8 ("Above") and the first of verse 9 ("Then") are placed in opposition and it is to them that the "first" and the "second" at the end of verse 9 looks.
Granting that the Levitical sacrifices were "offered by the law," nevertheless, God rejected them as the means of making real expiation of sin and the saving of His church. This He had made known as far back as the days of David; nor was it a new decision that God formed then, for what He spoke through His prophets in time was but the revelation of what He had decreed in eternity. This the Son, the Mediator, was cognizant of, therefore did He say, "Lo I come to do Thy will, O God." "Lo" Behold! a word signalizing what a glorious spectacle was then presented to God, to angels, and to men. "I come" from Heaven to earth, from the "form of God" to the "form of a servant;" come forth like the rising of the sun, with light and healing in his wings, or as a giant rejoicing to run his race. To "do Thy will," to perform Thy counsels, to execute what Thou requirest, to render that entire service of love which Thy people owed unto the law, to perform the great work of redemption. Thus, the perfect obedience of Christ is placed in direct contrast from the whole of the Levitical offerings: His accomplishing what theirs could not.
"He taketh away the first, that He may establish the second." This inference is patent; no other conclusion could be drawn. The Levitical offerings were unefficacious to accomplish the purpose of God; the satisfaction of the incarnate Son had. The Greek word for "taketh away" is even stronger than the term applied to the old covenant—"made old" and "vanish away" (Heb. 8:13). It is usually applied to the taking away of life (Acts 16:27). Dead things are not only useless, but prove harmful carrion, fit only to be buried! Thus it was with the Mosaic shadows. So also an equally emphatic and final word is used in connection with the one offering of our Lord’s: it has "established" the will of God concerning the Church. That is, it has placed it on such an immutable foundation that it shall never be moved or altered.
"By the which will we are sanctified through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all" (verse 10). This is a commentary upon the whole passage. "By," or better "in which will" refers not to Christ’s, for the preceding verse speaks of the will of the Father, purposing that Christ should offer the perfect and acceptable sacrifice. Moreover, the "will" is distinguished from the "offering" of the Redeemer. The "Thy will" of verse 9 refers to the eternal agreement between the Father and the Son in connection with the covenant of redemption, the performing of His "commandment" (John 10:18). "In which will" gives the sphere or element in which the great sacrifice was offered and in which the elect are "sanctified."
"In the which will we are sanctified through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all." "Sanctified" positionally, restored to God’s favor, standing accepted before Him. The death of Christ was a "sacrifice" (7:27, 9:23), by which He put away sin (Heb. 9:26) and provided for the purging of our conscience (Heb. 9:14) and the setting apart of our persons unto God (Heb. 10:14). All these passages affirm that the death of Christ was a sacrifice by which the elect are separated as a peculiar people unto the worship of the living God. It is important to see the type realized in the Antitype. "As the ancient sacrifices, as symbols in the lower sphere, freed the worshipper from merited (temporal) punishment, because the guilt passed over to the victim, so the death of Christ, in a higher sphere, not only displayed the punishment due to us for sin, but the actual removal of that punishment. It puts us in the position of a people near to God, a holy people, as Israel were in a typical (or ceremonial) sense" (G. Smeaton).
"In the which will we are sanctified through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all." "Sanctified is here to be taken in its widest latitude, as including a full expiation of sin, a complete dedication to God, a real purification of our natures, a permanent peace of conscience unto which belongs the privilege of immediate access to God. Faith is the instrumental cause, whereby we enter into the good of it. The Spirit’s work within is the efficient cause, whereby we are enabled to believe and lay hold of it. The redemptive work of Christ is the meritorious cause, whereby He earned for us the gift of His Spirit to renew us. But the sovereign and eternal will of the Father is the supreme and originating cause. All that the will of God ordained for the good of His Church is communicated to us through the satisfaction or offering of Christ, but this is only apprehended by an understanding enlightened and a heart opened by the Holy Spirit.